Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Japanese Nabe

This is the story of a very traditional Japanese dish and what I made of it. First of all, I took out all that crawled before. And second, I cannot find half the original ingredients over here in Germany, so I had to make some adjustments. Even so, nabe is one of my all-time favorite soups. It is quick, easy, warming, and in its vegan version almost fat-free.

Nabe is a traditional winter dish. It is cooked at the table in a wide flat pot. The ingredients are nicely arranged in the pot, the longest cooking go in first, the most tender last. Then everybody takes out some of the food, and new ingredients are placed in the broth. This goes on until everybody is full. Now you have a deeply aromatic broth left. Enter the rice. On festive occasions in Japan, rice is usually served last. Maybe it is because this is the weekday staple, and on special days people want to fill up on something else. The cooked rice (some Japanese also use soba) is placed in the rich, fragrant broth, left there to soak up the liquids, and then enjoyed at the close of the meal.

I remember cold cold winter Sundays in Japan when I was out all day. When I got home I only wanted to do one thing: curl up on my heating carpet and slurp hot nabe soup until my bones were thawed again. Also my Japanese friends frequently invited me for nabe nights - evenings full of laughter and playing cards - and eating lots and lots of nabe.

Back here in Germany, I don't have a nabe pot, so I make it on the stove like a soup. I love how the flavors play together. The pumpkin and cabbage lend it some sweetness, chrysanthemum leaves have a delightful bitterness in them, lotus root adds some crunch, and the mushrooms and tofu are heavenly tender.

Above are two pics I took in Japan of my beloved pot and what it looked like in the soup bowl. Below the instructions for my westernized veganized Nabe. I give you the original ingredients first, and in parentheses the possible substitutes if you have trouble finding things.

Japanese Nabe
Serves two

vegan nabe broth (or vegetarian yeast-based stock or vegetable stock)
vegan Japanese sesame dressing to taste (or 1:1:1 tahini + balsamic vinegar + soy sauce)
1-2 cups Japaneses mushrooms (shiitake, king trumpet mushrooms (eryngii), enoki)
1/2 cup fresh lotus root (or water chestnuts)
5 oz firm tofu
1/2 small kabocha pumpkin
1 small Chinese cabbage
1 cup bean sprouts
a good handfull of chrysanthemum leaves (or arugula (rocket))
1 oz rice noodles (original: Japanese rice or soba)

Cook the rice noodles (or Japanese soba or Japanese rice) according to instructions on the pack.

Place the stock and some of the sesame dressing to taste together with the tofu, the pumpkin, the mushrooms and the fresh lotus root in a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until the veggies are tender. Add the Chinese cabbage and the sprouts and simmer for a few more minutes. You do not want the cabbage to overcook. Taste and adjust spices. Add the arugula (or better: chrysanthemum leaves) and the rice noodles and serve, the heat of the soup will wilt the arugula to perfection.

For more easy but impressive soups check out the white and green Broccoli-Cauliflower Yin-Yang soup.

I'm making my veganized Japanese Nabe my contribution to "No croutons required" which is hosted by Lisa from Lisa's Kitchen and Holler from Tinned Tomatoes - this month centers around vegetable soups.

Fat-free depends on the use of fat-free ingredients.
Gluten-free depends on the use of gluten-free ingredients.


Vaishali said...

Anke, the nabe looks simply divine. I've never had it before, so I am truly intrigued. Also, your version sounds so healthy! Thanks for posting the recipe.

Veggie said...

This looks fabulous, I want to start trying Japanese food but most of the recipes I've found so far are made with fish.

Do you know how to make vegan kombu stock or ponzu sauce?

Thanks for posting this recipe.

Vegan_Noodle said...

I have never heard of that, but it sounds delicious! How long were you in Japan?

Anke said...

I lived there for a year. Could have stayed longer, but my boyfriend wanted me to come back (and I did, too). Well, and then he proposed to me... Glad I came back :-)

Japanese cuisine is pretty unknown in the West, it is sooo much more than sushi :-)

Happy Herbivore! said...

Your food looks fabulous! and authentic - no better. I'd rather eat yours than what was at a restauraunt... and your chopsticks are awesome!

Guss said...

Nabe is amazing practically what i survived on as a vegeterian for a month in Japan ! Some of the punk in Tsuyama mad eus vegan nabe! it rules!! Thanks agian for posting this i really hope i can get around to making some myself!